How Much is Too Much? — Part Two

Yesterday,  I began to discuss the observations I’ve made of late regarding the decadence of the American church.  You can read the first post here to get an idea of what I’m talking about.  Why is it the American church feels the need to constantly be getting bigger and bigger and using their money to purchase bigger and bigger things?

Perhaps the argument is given that we do all we can to reach the lost.  That includes building a Chuck E. Cheese playground for kids to play in while Mom and Dad are entertained in a worship center that has better lighting and sound than any nightclub in the county.

Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 
(2 Timothy 4:2 NLT)

I’ll write more tomorrow about the message itself but this verse keeps messing with my head as I think about ways to reach people and grow a church plant.  I preach a number of sermon series each year including both topical and expository series.  I understand the value of speaking to life needs as many would attest but I also understand that God called me to preach the cross and His shed blood so that others could be saved.  How do we bridge the two and stay current while being faithful to His call to preach the gospel?

Aside from the message itself is the overarching concept of whole life ministry.  How can the church connect the gospel with the idea of a daily life devoted to God?  In my preparation to preach and teach is the idea that I must tailor my messages to the unique needs of the people in my congregation.  It’s not so much niche preaching as it is living in your congregation.  My quote yesterday from Calvin Miller’s book on the preacher “living in the center of his community” rings true to my heart.  Our people deserve to see a living sermon in the lives of their leaders.  My concern is that with the recent growth of video-venue churches, an experience like that is nearly impossible.  I know I’ll hear from the VV supporters who will claim that life change is happening and is possible.  I’ll not deny their claims but a pastor is much more than someone who speaks each weekend.

I mention video venues only because a recent poll taken by the “Church Marketing Sucks” people show that for many people, they feel the future of the church is in the video venue concept (37%) while another 21% feel it will be “something else” (though they didn’t say what that was)!

While the highest percentage feel the future is in the VV concept, my thoughts go to the other 63% who feel into a mix of large church, small church, and something else.  There is still much searching being done by society.  They are still not sold on what it is that is being done today.

I like what my good friend Jason Ackerman said in response to my first post:

You’re helping people understand what it means to be Jesus to their community, day to day in their own sphere of influence. It’s not about the exalted gifted communicator, it’s about walking through a spiritual journey together.

That’s exactly it.  How best to do that is what I fight with each day.  My budget is limited and yet, many want the entertainment experience.  What about when they leave and go back to their jobs, their families, and their day-to-day existence?  Have we given them food for the journey?  Is our gathering merely to sing good music, preach for 25 minutes, collect money and send them on their way or are we living life together?  Is the pastor leading as he should be being both humble yet strong?  Are the leaders servant led to meet people where they are and to lead them to a sacrificial life of Christlike devotion?

More tomorrow…

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How Much is Too Much? — Part Two

4 thoughts on “How Much is Too Much? — Part Two

  1. This is definitely worth some serious thought.

    I once heard a FWB from a larger FWB church say that God couldn’t do anything with a smaller church of 30 or 40. I haven’t respected that man very much since I heard him say that. I don’t want to be the same man on the opposite end of the spectrum.

    The church does a lot of things in the name of reaching people with the gospel. Sound systems, lights, drums, certain styles of music, styles of speaking (it’s cool to sit at a barista nowadays).

    A smaller church sees larger churches doing things like this in their worship services and assume that if they do those things then they will in turn be able to reach more people too.

    Of course some might have wrong motives in wanting to be big. Churches end up competing with each other for Christians instead of reaching people with the gospel.

    The thing about those “cool” things is that those things are not the reason that church is being so “successful”. I highly doubt that if all of a sudden every FWB pastor would just preach sitting down on a stool with a high table to rest his Bible on like Andy Stanley, then droves of sinners would flood the altar (or do mega-churches use altars?) turning their lives to Christ. I’m sure that’s what the Holy Spirit is waiting on–baristas.

    People who don’t have Christ could care less if a church uses powerpoint or not.

    So while I don’t think those things are bad, it’s so vital to know that it’s not about those things! Those outside of the church are much more concerned with knowing someone cares about them and will do all they can to help them than how colorful the children’s worship center is!

    I just hope we’re not wasting our time accumulating all of this church “stuff” that doesn’t really matter at all anyway.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go convince my pastor that we need a GPS for our parking lot so sinners can more easily navigate to park.

  2. Stacy J Ross says:

    I’ve only had one experience with video venues. Last February my wife and I were staying in OKC while our baby Lizbeth was in the OU Medcenter Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). One week while we were there we decided to go to Lifechurch. I had never been to any sort of a video preaching service before so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

    AS you mentioned they had the Chuck E. Cheese playground for kids and better lighting and sound than any nightclub in the county. Not to mention Krispy Creme Donuts and Starbucks coffee. I thought the Chuck E.Cheese playground was pretty snazzy and wished my older daughters had been there to play on it. I didn’t really care for the light system, but at no point during the worship service did I feel like they were entertaining me. I took some time to look around and from appearances most didn’t feel that way either.

    When it came time for the preaching some dude from Australia was filling in for Craig because Craig was out of town. The message was on anger. His message touched on issues in our lives that needed to be dealt with. From our lack of righteous anger, to our anger over the situation with Lizbeth, to my excusing anger and holding grudges because ‘it runs in my family.’

    During the conclusion the preacher explained the Gospel message and how that anger is a sin that needs to be forgiven and that with Jesus help we can control our anger. We were urged/encouraged to repent and believe on Jesus. there was a time of response–as Jacob said no altar call but hey, Jesus didn’t use altars so I don’t see why anyone else should have to–and people were told how to connect with the church so they could move forward in their new relationship with Christ.

    So my one experience with the VV was that it is awesome. There didn’t seem to be any indication that the preacher couldn’t connect with his audience because he didn’t live life with them. From his personal stories to his practical application everything hit home with us. This isn’t something we will be doing in No Man’s Land anytime soon, but I sure didn’t see anything that would be wrong with it.

  3. I listen to Craig Groschel’s sermons via iTunes pretty regularly. He is a great speaker and is unashamed about the gospel message.

    Also, I’d like to point out that I am not one to say that an altar call is necessary in every message. I realize it’s a cultural thing. I probably didn’t convey my feelings on that very well when I mentioned it above.

  4. I suppose in my own ranting against the VV I should clarify that I don’t find people or churches that do them “bad”… in fact, I sit in on a conference call every week with a church outside our area that does several video venues every week, and at no time have I doubted their faith, sincerity, or passion to see lost people come to Christ.

    Now that being said.

    I don’t think this is just about the VV – it’s really a much larger discussion, being how can we best reach people in our culture. Not just that, but what are we creating in doing so? It’s hard to do, but I have to reject the “because people are being reached it must be OK” argument. That’s not the same as being “all things to all people”… as my blogger friend Bob Hyatt in Portland says, what we win people with, we win them to.

    That means if we use high-level marketing, and flashy productions, and customer service (ie, bribery) to get people into our churches, then we are creating a dependency and consumerism that ultimately results in the crowds migrating to the best marketing, the best production, the best customer service, all the while potentially missing the (gasp!) spiritual depth that should be found in community with the body of Christ.

    And I know you can hit me with anecdotal evidence that lives are being changed and people are being brought to Christ in these settings, and I can’t deny that, in fact I rejoice in it. I can bring evidence to the contrary as well… all the while believing that God is bigger than our feeble attempts at organizing the church in the ways we see fit. It’s not an issue unique to the mega-churches or video venues. My question remains – is it the best way to bring people into a growing, vital relationship with the God of the universe and His Son who redeems us? Or is it placing a highly consumeristic cultural construct onto the Church?

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